This week, ‘Did You Know’ is excerpted from, “Changed by Grace,” a South Bend History professor’s latest book: When V.C. Kitchen attended his first Oxford Group (O.G.) meeting, nothing happened quite like he thought it would. Nobody stood up before the group and gave lurid confessions about scandalous behavior. Instead, after dinner, Kitchen found himself sitting in the lobby of Briarcliff Lodge talking to one of the O.G. members in a completely private conversation. There was no exotically furnished dimly lit room with tiger skins on the floor. It was nothing but an ordinary hotel lobby with easy chairs and couches where the guests could sit and talk with one another. But as the man he was talking to began explaining about the O.G. to Kitchen, he told about the enormous changes the group had produced in his life, and he spoke openly about some of the ways he used to act, to contrast with the new attitudes he now developed. In other words, in A.A. language, the man did a twelfth step on him. Where he told him the story of what he used to be like, what happened to him, and what he’s like now. The man was so natural, open and honest that Kitchen was completely disarmed, and was soon overcome by a strange compulsion to bare his own soul to a complete stranger. But then he discovered that he was too ashamed to talk about himself and who he really was at that level of honesty. The other man, he said: Had been as big a reprobate as I. And yet, as I talked, I stuck pretty closely to a rather hand-picked list of sins. I did not want to let him see the really nasty things inside me—the things that I was most ashamed of. I did not want him to know what a rotten person I had become and still was. And so I wound up by saying that my sins were not really troubling me at all. My real trouble, I glibly lied, was simply confusion—inability to see what we are living for—inability to solve both the “why” and “how” of life…


Much like many of A.A.’s newcomers, Kitchen tried to hide his shame about his life by attempting to turn everything into an intellectual debate about the philosophy of life and whether there was a God and other evasive strategies of that sort. He had come to the house party to laugh at the O.G. members and deride them, and found the tables turned in a totally unexpected way. Faced with their simple honesty, Kitchen found that he was the inferior and dishonest one. In his first one-on-one conversation, Kitchen found himself taking the first step toward personal honesty and recovery: oh, it was true that at the surface level, he kept on trying to keep up the false front by attempting to turn the conversation into an intellectual debate where he could come up with rationalizing excuses for blaming God and religion and the world for all his own inner unhappiness and dissatisfaction, but he was honest enough inside to realize that this was all a big lie. At some deep level he had been forced to admit to himself that it was his own life, over and over again, which he could not face.

Without admitting anything to anyone else about his real inner response, he found to his surprise, coming to the next O.G. house party at Briarcliff and this time he brought his wife too. Neither of them was willing to acknowledge to the other how deeply they were affected by this second house party, either during the weekend or on the ride back home. But once they got back, the walls of secrecy which both of them had erected, began tumbling down. To be continued.

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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